Dear Comp Lit Community,
A warm welcome back to Comp Lit faculty, staff, and students. I want to personally thank everyone for staying the course and to express a special note of gratitude to our Administrator A.M. Wild, who bore the burden of managing and monitoring the department’s everyday life throughout the stressful period of pandemic lockdown. We are delighted to welcome Deirdre Collins, our new Graduate Administrator, and could not be more thankful that she is here.
This fall, despite ongoing challenges, there is much to celebrate. Comp Lit is thrilled to announce that Professor Frederick Moten, a colleague teaching in the Tisch School’s Department of Performance Studies, and a world-renowned theorist, scholar, poet, and James MacArthur fellow, has joined our department. Fred’s arrival is a transformative event in the department’s history and we look forward to working with him on future programming, hiring, and curricular initiatives.
In other major news, our senior search for a South Asia comparatist is thankfully back on track. We are also pleased that Visiting Professors (from NYU-Buenos Aires) Mariano López Seoane and Todd Foley (EAS) are teaching with us again this fall - their contributions have proved vital. In addition to Mariano and Todd, we are co-sponsoring the visits of Professor Ali Benmakhlouf (who will be teaching a course this spring, cross-listed with French and Comp Lit). Ali is a Professor of Philosophy at Paris-Creteil and the University of Rabat. His specializations include medieval Islamic philosophy, early modern French thought, translation, political theory and contemporary bioethics. We will also welcome this spring Romuald Fonkoua, Professor of Francophone studies at the Sorbonne, and editor of the journal Présence Africaine. His course will focus on fields covered by Manthia Diawara, who is teaching this year in Abu Dhabi.
There were multiple faculty accomplishments and student awards this past year. Details can be found on our website, expertly curated by Michael Ernst. The amazing student-founded journal Barricade: A Journal of Antifascism and Translation has recently gone live with its joint 3rd and 4th edition. Wendy Lotterman, Tuhin Bhattacharjee, Smaran Dayal, and recent graduates Amanda Perry and Emily Sibley have all received awards and fellowships. Smaran Dayal was elected last year to the Board of ACLA. Athanassia Williamson and Juan Manuel Avila Conejo attended the School of Criticism and Theory. We introduced a new website feature consisting of informal exchanges between faculty and students. Wendy Lotterman interviewed Hentyle Yapp, Daniella Gitlin interviewed Mariano López Seoane, and recent Ph.D. graduate Michael Krimper contributed a tribute reflection on the late Jean-Luc Nancy, a philosopher whose work has had a deep influence on a great many of us. Sylvia Gorelick contributed to SubStance 50.2: Reading After Blanchot edited by our Comp Lit colleague Zakir Paul. Tuhin Bhattacharjee published "Antigone/Mother: Second Death and the Maternal in Lacan and Cavarero" in philoSOPHIA: A Journal of Transcontinental Feminism. Alexander Miller organized a roundtable of interventions on Catherine Malabou’s work on “epigenesis” that recently appeared in the journal October (No. 175) with contributions from Comp Lit faculty Emanuela Bianchi, Alexander Galloway, and myself. Smaran Dayal also has a new piece coming out in the journal American Studies.
This year the graduate students have several initiatives underway, including a Comparatorium Works in Progress event dedicated to the topic of “Pandemic Labors.”
In faculty news, I had the pleasure of co-convening (with Comp Lit Associate Faculty member and MCC colleague Alexander Galloway), a Humanities Lab funded by a Bennett-Polonsky Grant. It was devoted to the topic “Knowledge Alphabets. Translation in Natural and Digital Languages.” A group of fourteen faculty and students met throughout the year, with an adjacent undergraduate seminar taught last spring in Comp Lit and MCC.
Gabriela Basterra has begun a term as Chair of Spanish and Portuguese. Ana Dopico continues in her role as Director of the Hemispheric Institute, Ulrich Baer will continue to head the Humanities Center, Hent de Vries began his second term as Director of the School of Criticism and Theory, Hala Halim and Mark Sanders were re-appointed as co-directors of CALAMEGS, and Zakir Paul took on his fourth year as Director of Poetics & Theory (highlights from last year included lectures by Donna Jones, Daniel Heller-Roazen, and Anjuli Raza Kolb). Profound gratitude goes to Mark Sanders and Emanuela Bianchi for continuing to guide us through difficult pandemic times in their capacities as DGS and DUS. Emma will also serve this year on the Core Curriculum Steering Committee. This fall Jay Garcia is a Public Humanities fellow. Last year he launched a lecture series in Black theory and aesthetics that continues this year under the rubric “Black Studies and the Contemporary Student.” Look out for an event on Oct. 12 with Marina Bilbija (When the Sojourner Came to Harlem), and November 18-19 (this last with theorist R.A. Judy in dialogue with Fred Moten). Upcoming events include a session on Oct. 15 in Poetics & Theory around Paul North’s new book Bizarre-Privileged Items in the Universe: The Logic of Likeness (Zone Books, 2021) with Paul himself, and Rebecca Comay and Hent de Vries as discussants. There will also be a dialogue on Nov. 2 between McKenzie Wark and Mariano López Seoane focusing on Mariano’s translation of Wark’s Reverse Cowgirl into Spanish (Of Hackers and Cowgirls: Translating Sex and Class).
It will be slow going this term as we try to recover muscle memory of academic life in the “before times” but the signs are good that we will get there while remaining vigilant about staying safe. Welcome back, welcome to new and visiting faculty, and keep checking the newsletter for updates on department events and important news.